The idea that “mentally ill” persons must be locked in institutions against their wishes is a profoundly authoritarian idea, opposed to the rights of the individual and the founding principles of the United States. Yet it is an idea held by many elites and members of the psychiatric establishment today.
Let us examine the following statement by a prominent contemporary psychiatrist, Dr. Ralph Slovenko: “Crazy people are [now] everywhere. Modern notions of civil liberties and fiscal considerations have combined to produce a population of very disturbed people in every city in America. The notion of local treatment alternatives for mentally incapacitated citizens in a cruel hoax. It is clear that the vast majority of dangerously impaired people are out there in the streets.” (Dr. Ralph Slovenko, professor of law and psychiatry at Wayne State University. 2000. pp.47-48)
This man proclaims, without even any subtlety, that individual rights, the foundation of freedom and prosperity in this country, are a root of derangement within the country’s populace!
Slovenko seeks to deny citizens of the United States the ability to select treatment within their communities should they detect a genuine mental illness and volitionally attempt a recovery. Instead he suggests (as is the application of this particular argument) that persons designated as “insane” or “mentally ill” must be locked against their consent in government-owned institutions for treatment.
Civil liberties as well as concern of officials for proper spending of public funds (which does not encompass the imprisonment of persons who have not committed a crime) had resulted in widespread deinstitutionalization during the 1950s, but people like Dr. Slovenko have been clamoring for the reinstatement of asylums ever since.
In George Orwell’s 1984, the free spirits who resist the Party’s rule are arrested, imprisoned, and subsequently transferred to a facility subordinate to the Ministry of Love in which they undergo a combination of torture and “rehabilitation”, their will the resist broken under a hail of Party dogma. They are declared delusional since their frame of mind differs from that imposed by the social paradigm. Because they see the truth of a single reality and the need to interact with it, they are declared mentally ill and “treated”. Frighteningly enough, real people in our time like Dr. Slovenko also seek to coercively ensnare such “dangerous” persons.
Dr. Slovenko’s words in particular remind one of the major fear of Party officials in George Orwell’s 1984, the so-called “thoughtcrime”, by which concept a man’s freedom, not merely the freedom to do what he pleases but to think what he pleases, is forever deprived from him as a result of the contents of his mind not being in accordance with “socially acceptable” beliefs, i.e. those of the dominant oligarchy. Slovenko suggests precisely that, the containment of persons not for the criminal deed, but for “inclination” or deviation in outward behavior and thought that would brand them with the subjective label, “insane”.